The police operation against the Muslim Unity group in Baku’s Nardaran suburb and in the southern Azerbaijani city of Lankaran was the Aliyev regime’s reaction to the news that some forces were using local Shia activists for triggering the “Ukrainian scenario” in the country, a former Azerbaijani top government official told EADaily.
“Their goal is to change the ruling regime. And those forces are not from abroad but are very close to President Ilham Aliyev. Those people are called the ‘Baku-Shirvan clan’ or the clan of Mehriban Aliyeva, the first lady of Azerbaijan,” the official said.
“The goal of that clan is to neutralize the core of Ilham Aliyev’s team, his closest advisors. Their names are known: the head of the presidential administration Ramiz Mehdiyev, Head of the Presidential Guards Baylar Ayyubov, Emergency Situations Minister Kamalludin Heydarov, Mayor of Baku Hajibala Abutalybov, CEO of SOCAR Rovnag Abdullayev, Chairman of Azerbaijan Television and Radio Broadcasting Company Arif Alishanov, Governor of Nakhichevan Vasif Talybov. All of them were close to Heydar Aliyev and all of them are Kurds from Nakhichevan. In contrast, the ‘Baku-Shirvan clan’ is purely Turkic and therefore is opposed to the Nakhichevanis. The core of that clan is the Pashayev family, the family of Mehriban Aliyeva. Aliyeva’s ancestors come from Northern Iran. Her uncle, Hafiz Pashayev is Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan and former Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the United States,” the official said.
“One of the Pashayevs was Eldar Mahmudov, National Security Minister, dismissed on Oct 17. Though de jure loyal to the ruling clan since 2004, Mahmudov was de facto acting in the interests of its opponents. Under Mahmudov, counterintelligence in Azerbaijan was replaced by police as national security was given to Interior Minister Ramil Usubov. A policeman cannot be a counterspy. This is why there was no real intelligence under Mahmudov. But instead there were repressions against all those opposing the ruling regime,” the official said.
Just a few days after the dismissal of Mahmudov, Shia leader Taleh Bagirzade organized rallies in Ganca and Mashdaga. “Some experts believe that somebody from the ministry might have informed Bagirzade of the changes and might have given him a free hand,” the official said.
According to him, active in Azerbaijan under Mahmudov were not only the secret services of the United States, Turkey and Israel but also emissaries from Iran. In the Azerbaijani government there are forces oriented towards Iran. One of them is Mehriban Aliyeva’s clan. “The Iranian special services might have had a hand in the Bagirzade case. And even more: they might have been encouraged by the Americans, who need higher activity from the Azerbaijani Shias. The Americans do not care for Shias, Sunnis or Azerbaijan as such. What they need is just instability in that country,” the official said.
If the old guards are removed from power, the Pashayev clan will grab the most profitable resources: SOCAR, finances, mass media, police. “But the old guards will not give up and while the two clans will be fighting, the Americans will bring one more player into the game – Azerbaijani Wahhabis. The Americans will hardly give the rule to the Pashayev clan as they are mostly pro-Russian. One of their agents in Russia is Russian businessman of Azerbaijani origin Ilham Rahimov. And this is not the only factor. The Americans do not need stable Azerbaijan. They want it to be like Ukraine so as to gain access to Iran. In fact, this all is part of Richard Morningstar’s Greater Azerbaijan concept – a U.S.-controlled defragmented and unstable Azerbaijani-Iranian region,” the official said.
But what a role is Shia preacher Taleh Bagirzade given here? “He is hardly an Iranian or American spy. Yes, he studied in Iran but he was hardly recruited there. His Muslim Unity is not the stronghold of Shia terrorism but is just the puppet of the Interior Ministry. Though inspired by Iranian theocracy, Bagirzade was instructed by the Interior Ministry and its anti-Aliyev chief,” the official said.
According to him, the first time Bagirzade appeared with anti-government calls was late Oct, when the Azerbaijani Shias were celebrating Ashura, the holiday when they commemorate the grandson of Prophet Muhammad Hussain, who was killed by Yazid on Oct 28, 680 AD. On the first day of Ashura, on Oct 23, Mayor of Ganca Elmar Veliyev, a Kurd by origin, ruled to close the municipal mosque. Bagirzade’s reaction was as follows: “Kurd Veliyev has closed the mosque because he is not a Muslim Kurd but a Yazidi. For many Shias Yazidi is synonym for pagan and Satanist. Many Shias associated this word with Yazid, the man who killed Imam Hussain,” the official said.
According to him, while addressing believers in Baku’s Mashtag suburb in late Oct, Bagirzade said: “If the ruling regime refuses to dismiss the mayor of Ganca – a Yazidi and an enemy of Islam – it means that our Kurd President Ilham Aliyev is also a Yazidi and an enemy of Islam.” “What he meant was that being enemies of Islam, the Yazidis having power in Azerbaijan are oppressing Shias. And it is time to stop this! What was that if not a call for a coup?” the official said.
On the other hand, he noted that before late Nov 2015 the Azerbaijani national security service neglected Bagirzade’s calls. “So, they could hardly have any specific plans concerning Taleh,” the official said.